Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Sweet Potato and Zucchini Muffins

I found this recipe on the Cooking Light forums, which I read quite often. I was looking for some healthy muffins to make for playgroup when Jack was little. I still make these for the boys, and they really like them. I like their nutritional profile, especially after I made some changes to the recipe. I wouldn't say they are the most delicious muffins I've ever made, but they're for the children anyway!

My changes to the recipe are in parentheses. I highly recommend reducing the sugar. Adding dried or frozen berries is a nice change. I usually make these as mini muffins.

Sweet Potato and Zucchini Muffins my changes are in parentheses

2 cups all purpose flour (1 c. white and 1 c. wheat)
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups sugar (1 cup sugar)
3/4 cup veg. oil (half oil and half vanilla yogurt)
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups grated zucchini (2 cups)
1 1/2 cups grated, peeled sweet potato (2 cups)
1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted (omitted)

Preheat oven to 350. Spray mini muffin tins with cooking spray. Sift first 4 ingredients into bowl (flour through salt). Beat sugar, oil, yogurt, eggs, and vanilla to blend in large bowl. Mix in zucchini and sweet potato. Add dry ingredients and walnuts and stir well. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Bake until tester comes out clean, about 12-14 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes in pans and remove. Finish cooling on baking racks. You can also bake this in a greased and floured loaf pan for 1 hour and 20 minutes.

Righteous Herb Cheese Spread

Make sure everyone eats this, because the flavors are very strong and you'll want everyone to smell like garlic! I've been making this for years, always on Thanksgiving but other times as well. It was named by my sister-in-law, Beth.

Righteous Herb Cheese Spread

This spread is great with crackers or vegetables. It also is good as a sandwich spread, especially with roast beef. Another way I serve it is in sliced cucumber rounds, about 3/4 inch thick. If you salt the cucumbers, let them sit in a colander layered with paper towels, rinse, and pat dry, the cucumbers won't "sweat."

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill weed (or 1 heaping T. dried)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (or 1 heaping T. dried)
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice

Mix all ingredients together. Chill to let flavors blend.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Tortellini Salad Greek or Antipasto - your choice

This salad is actually something I came up with myself. It's more of an idea than a recipe, but I rarely create my own dishes; I usually adapt existing recipes. The dressing will make more than enough, but you can save the leftovers for a Greek (lettuce) salad or for remoistening leftover tortellini salad. I also make a antipasto variation with prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, olives, and whatever else looks good.

Greek Tortellini Salad

1 16 oz. package of cheese tortellini cooked, drained, and cooled you can use fresh tortellini if the grocery budget allows; you can also add more tortellini if cooking for a crowd
4 oz. crumbled feta cheese
1 package grape tomatoes, sliced in half
about 1/2 a red onion, chopped fine
about 1 cup of pepperoncini peppers, sliced and stems discarded
1 large cucumber, peeled, cut in half, and sliced - I like English cucumbers
about 1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted

Mix the above together.

1/2 cup olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/2 lemons, juiced (1/4 cup of juice)
Salt and pepper to taste

Put the olive oil in a microwave safe bowl and add the garlic. Microwave for 30 seconds. Add lemon juice and whisk until dressing is emulsified (it should look opaque, not separated). Add salt and pepper to taste.

Add dressing a few tablespoons at a time to pasta salad until salad looks evenly dressed. Mix gently and chill.

Antipasto Variation
1 16 oz. package cheese tortellini, cooked and drained
4 oz. prosciutto (can also substitute pepperoni - a stick, chopped up, is best, but sliced is ok)
pepperoncini peppers, stems cut off
kalamata olives
chunk mozzarella cheese, cut into cubes
red onion, diced
sun-dried tomatoes or halved grape tomatoes
sliced roasted red peppers


1 large garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon crumbled dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried basil, crumbled
1 teaspoon dried orégano, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes, or to taste
1/2 cup olive oil

Whisk dressing until emulsified. The dressing will be opaque, and there will not be a separation of the oil and vinegar. Pour over all other ingredients mixed in large bowl. This keeps for several days.

Mexican Layer Dip

Everyone has a recipe for this, right? I like this one quite a bit because it is a little different, with a basic guacamole in the middle. The guacamole layer doesn't turn brown because it is covered by the other layers. I usually put the last layer of toppings in quadrants because the tomato-eaters may not like olives, and the olive-eaters may not want their breath sullied with raw onions!

Mexican Layer Dip

1 can refried beans
3 avocados
2 T. lime juice
salt and pepper
1 c. sour cream
1 taco seasoning packet
8 oz. shredded cheddar or Mexican-blend cheese
diced tomato
sliced black olives
diced onion
tortilla chips

Spread beans on a platter. Microwave one minute to make spreading easier.

Peel and mash avocados with lime juice, salt, and pepper to taste. Spread on top of beans.

Mix sour cream with taco seasoning. Spread on top of avocado mixture.

Sprinkle shredded cheese on top of sour cream. Scatter tomatoes, olives, and onions on top of cheese. Serve at room temperature with tortilla chips.

Carrot Souffle

This side dish is not a true souffle, but it's delicious anyway, fresh or reheated. I often make it along with roast chicken and potatoes when I make a meal for a new mom or someone who is ill. The recipe is adapted from Cooking Light. I thought the original was too sweet: carrots are quite sweet and don't need as much sugar as the recipe indicated.

Carrot Souffle

7 cups chopped carrot (about 2 pounds)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 350°.

Cook carrots in boiling water 15 minutes or until very tender; drain. Place carrot in a food processor; process until smooth. Add granulated sugar and next 7 ingredients (granulated sugar through eggs); pulse to combine.

Spoon mixture into a 2-quart baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 40 minutes or until puffed and set.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Giant Cookie!!!

The boys around here prefer a chewy, oatmeal type of cookie uber alles, so much so that there's a mutiny if I branch out to say, a spicy gingersnap. This cookie is delicious and very, very large, and I've been asked for the recipe many times. I bake it in 8 inch round cake pans. At Thanksgiving time, I use Reese's Pieces and have Jack decorate it like a turkey for his teachers. The feathers say "I'm thankful you're my teacher." I think you could do a lot of cute things - use pastel colored M&M's and attach construction paper flower petals for a teacher thank you or Mother's Day gift, for example. It's really good, though - you don't need to have a reason to make it.

Giant Cookie
Yield: 3 8-in. cookies

1 c. butter
3/4 c. peanut butter
1 c. sugar
1 c. brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 c. flour
3/4 t. baking soda
3/4 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 3/4 c. old fashioned oats
3/4 cup chocolate chips
3/4 c. M&M's or 3/4 c. Reese's Pieces, divided

Cream together butter, sugars and peanut butter. Blend in eggs. In another bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add flour mixture to butter mixture and mix well. Stir in oats, chocolate chips, and 1/4 cup M&M's. Divide dough in thirds.

Line 3 8-inch cake pans with foil and spray with non-stick spray. Spread dough to within 1 inch of pan's edge. Sprinkle each giant cookie with remaining M&M's and press them gently into the dough. Bake at 325 degrees for 20-25 minutes. The cookies should be lightly golden brown. Cool 10 minutes in pan. Gently remove each cookie with foil liner onto wire rack. Cool thoroughly.

Cowboy Caviar

This is a recipe that is greater than the sum of its parts. I first heard about it from my mother, whose aide made it for a potluck at school. I adapted it for a Western-themed baby shower I planned. It is one of those things people cannot stay out of, and it's actually fairly healthy - a nice discovery for party/potluck food! Obviously, you can customize it to your preferences.

Cowboy Caviar

1 15 oz. can black beans, drained
1 15 oz. can black-eyed peas or field peas, drained
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
2 cups frozen corn kernels, no need to thaw unless you're eating it within a half hour
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/4 green or red bell pepper, finely chopped I usually use the whole pepper
1/2 cup chopped pickled jalapeno peppers the jalapenos do not make it overly spicy
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt I know: fresh is better, but it's overpowering in this dip
1 cup Italian salad dressing I like something with the word "zesty" in the title
3/4 cup chopped cilantro slide the leaves off the stems and chop
Tostitos Scoops for serving this is great with Scoops, but it's also good as a side dish

Mix together all ingredients except the dressing and cilantro. Add dressing and cilantro; toss to coat. Refrigerate for an hour or until ready to serve. You can make this up to one day ahead.